All the contributors to our book have a significant connection to Loop and our next two interviewees are extra special as they were both once staff at the shop! Part of a legendary team of Loopettes, we chat to Claire Montgomerie and Rachel Atkinson, to find out more about their patterns that use the luxuriously soft Jade Sapphire Cashmere. As there are two designs, we have two new custom colours, ‘Oh Sweetie Pie’ a blush pink, and ‘Cloud Cuckoo’ a light moon blue.
First we caught up with Claire …
Hi Claire! How did you start working at Loop ?
I fell into the textiles industry after studying constructed textiles at Middlesex University then doing a Masters degree in knitted textiles at the Royal College of Art. It was during these six years that I learned to design on domestic and industrial knitting machines as well as developing my hand knitting skills.
When I first met Susan, I had been searching for my perfect job for many months after graduating from the RCA. It was always the tactile, experimental side of working with yarn and fabric that appealed to me and while I searched for a ‘real’ job, I realised that playing with textiles was which I loved to do and wondered if I could make a career out of it. It was during this time that I came across an advert Susan had placed online for knitters of samples for a new shop she was opening and decided that I would try to see if I could forge a career in handknitting.
I ended up knitting a few samples for the shop, at the same time making a new friend in Susan and securing a role as the first member of staff at Loop! (It makes me very proud to say I was the first Loopette – before the term was even coined!) Being at Loop was like a dream come true! It is definitely the best place to be if you are an ardent knitter and enjoy a truly tactile, sensory yarn experience. There is just so much to be learned from all the amazing people who work at or visit Loop and every day you would have dozens of interesting conversations, there were tips revealed, skills shared and lots of laughter.
Nowadays, I am still writing books, designing knit and crochet patterns and teaching, while also editing and art directing Inside Crochet magazine.
Where did your inspiration for the design come from?
That first design I knit for Susan when sampling for the shop was the A Capella capelet pattern by Kristi Porter from ‘Knitty’ (a relatively new sensation in the handknitting world at the time!) The A Capella pattern became a really popular make, we saw many a version on our customers as it was so versatile, and since ponchos are back on-trend, a mini-poncho pattern seemed a really appropriate design for me to create for Loop’s ten year anniversary celebrations. I also knew I wanted to create a bold, simple Fair Isle pattern for it that would be quick and easy for beginners to the technique to create, so the patterned yoke was added. I have made the pattern with sizes to fit children, too, as I also wrote my first books, Easy Baby Knits and Easy Kids Knits while at loop and I also now have a three year old daughter who I would love to have time to make more things for!
Tell us a little more about working with Jade Sapphire for this project.
Jade Sapphire had to be the choice for this pattern, as it is a yarn that has been around since the very early days of the shop and that I was introduced to by Susan while working at Loop and swiftly fell in love with. I spent many shifts caressing the buttery soft cashmere with my hand stuck in one of the shelves (if you haven’t tried this at Loop, do it next time you visit, it is one of life’s joys!) The soft, beautiful handle and drape of the fibre mean that it is perfect for the shape of the poncho and it also flies off the needles, making this quick-knit even speedier and the rich, pretty colours just epitomise Loop and Susan, for me.
You must have so many memories from working a Loop, any that stand out?
Oh gosh, too many! Running up and down the stairs endlessly is one that comes to mind. I only worked in the ‘new’ shop in Camden Passage a couple of times, and it’s a good job, too, I could hardly cope with the one set of stairs in Cross Street!
Although, in those days I was often the only member of staff in the shop, so I suppose the running couldn’t be shared! There was a lovely old lady who used to come in first thing most Friday mornings when I was by myself to ask for advice on what she was knitting for her great grandchild and she would give me old buttons to add to my collection in return.
I owe a lot to Susan and Loop and have many fond memories of the shop and our customers. Now I have simply turned into one of those customers, a yarn crazy that comes in and can’t leave without half of the store!
Hi Rachel! We’ve met you before on the blog, but please introduce yourself for those who don’t know you.
I am a freelance knit and crochet Technical Editor working for a whole range of international designers, magazines and book publishers. I have the added bonus of being the daughter of a shepherd and you can read a little bit more about me and my sheepy childhood on an earlier blog post for Loop Knit Lounge.
After very tearfully handing in my resignation, I left the shop in 2013 to go full-time as a Tech Editor and now work behind the scenes editing the Loop patterns. I have had the absolutely pleasure of editing the anniversary book as well as designing two patterns for it…I am almost bursting with having to keep so many beautiful secrets!
What were your ideas for your design when Susan first approached you?
When I think about Loop there are a multitude of things to take inspiration from, but my immediate reaction to the brief sprang from the artist Julie Arkell, whose quirky artworks are a constant feature of the shop. Julie is an absolute treasure herself; As well as being exceptionally talented, she is a genuinely lovely person with a unique style and look which exude a warmth you simply cannot help but be charmed by. And so this design was inspired by Julie and has been named ‘Arkell’ in her honour. I like to think she would be proud to wrap herself up in it. The knitted pattern is a bold design with lots of texture and cables plus a few of my signature stitches to keep you entertained.
The second design for the book is in crochet and you will spot the whimsical motifs sprinkled throughout the pages. I know this pattern kept the Loopettes and Loop Lad occupied for quite a while!
Like Claire, your project uses Jade Sapphire – is it one of your favourites too?
What a joy to be given the Jade Sapphire 8ply Cashmere to work with – it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful yarns in the shop, and given that all yarns at Loop are beautiful that says a lot!
Ken and Jane, the owners of Jade Sapphire are such wonderful people that I think some of their loveliness rubs off onto the yarn which itself is plump, luscious and so soft.
What does it mean to you to be part of Loop?
I first joined Loop as a Loopette after approaching Susan at the first Knit Nation back in July 2010 so it’s almost my five year Loopiversary! I plucked up the courage to ask about a job on the Sunday of the show and started work the following Tuesday – I don’t think anyone was expecting me to be stood on the doorstep as they opened the shop for the day! So many memories wrapped up in the woolly wonderland that is Loop I really don’t think I can pick one, but it has been an honour to be a small part of Loop’s journey over the past few years and I am proud to count Susan as one of my dearest friends – she’s been such an inspiration to so many people, whether staff, designers, dyers, customers and visitors to the shop from near and far. She’s such a clever lady with an incredible talent for envisioning an idea and making it real; Susan is Loop and Loop is Susan.
So many lovely stories and memories coming together to celebrate Loop’s ten years – and we are making all the more with our new book! We’re over halfway with our blog posts, it’s just a few more before the big reveal…
Happy Knitting and Crocheting!